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THE PARABLE OF THE PRODIGAL
Wednesday Worship, August 13, 2014
Text: Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
Next to the story of The Good Samaritan, The Parable of the Prodigal is probably one of the most well known teaching stories of Jesus. So well known in fact, that often when we come to hear it told again, we have already arrived at our own interpretation and our own conclusion as to what the point is.
The richness of the Parables, however, is that they constantly challenge us to listen again – to think again. It is as though Jesus holds a mirror to our face and says, “Come closer. Let’s take another look.”
So because this story is so familiar, let us take another look to see what God wants us to hear in this place and in this time.
In taking another look, we notice that this parable takes place in a particular context. How shameful and shocking that Jesus is sitting with…well, you know, people that are less than “desirable” in a proper society. Not only was he sitting with them, but he has also eaten with them. Really! How could he? Table fellowship with people who did not follow the holiness codes or proper etiquette? Unthinkable! Simply scandalous!
Jesus’ behavior and the company he kept provided “The Good Proper Folk” with a smorgasbord of gossip. Certainly, there was no end to the speculation as to what Jesus might do next.
Luke’s gospel tells how Jesus handled the grumbling Pharisees and scribes. “So he told them this parable…” Not only did Jesus tell them the parable of the shepherd seeking out the lost sheep, he went on to include the story of a woman who searched high and low to find a lost coin. In our modern day context, how far would we go to search for a lost pet? How many times would we turn our homes inside out to find a lost diamond from a wedding ring or a hunting compass given by someone special?
Those parables hold up a mirror that is clear. Yes, we would all do that! We understand the panic that comes in losing some THING that is precious. We would certainly call or tweet all of our friends and post it on Facebook that we had finally found what we had been looking for. Kind of a “No Brainer”, wouldn’t you say?
And then, Jesus holds the mirror a little more closely. OK, you show all this concern for animals and objects. What about people? In particular, people who make poor choices? People who live lifestyles that you don’t agree with? People who end up in less than desirable circumstances whether by choices made by themselves or choices made by others that affect them? Then what? Do you care or would you rather label them and stand away from them? Then, Jesus upped the ante. This time it wasn’t livestock or pets or personal property. He challenged them by saying, “There was a man who had two sons…”
How we hear and understand the parables depend so much on our own context, our personal and community life experiences. As such, our understandings can change as to which character we might identify with at different times in our lives.
Mark Allen Powell, a contemporary theologian, did an experiment on the story of the Prodigal. He did a controlled study of 100 students in St. Petersburg, Russia, in Tanzania, and in the United States. Powell asked them what this biblical text meant to them. The Russians focused in on the dire affects of the famine. The Tanzanians focused in on the failure of the surrounding community that allowed someone in their midst to be starving and no one gave him anything to eat. Probably this should be no surprise to us, the U.S. students zeroed in on the money – and how it was spent. How about you? What do you hear in Jesus’ Prodigal story and with which character do you identify?
The longer we’ve walked on earth, it is very possible that we have, at some point or another, identified with all three: the reckless younger son, the resentful, responsible elder son, and the waiting parent. In the past couple of years, I have heard this story in a new light as the mirror was held ever closer to my own household.
God, has an impeccable sense of irony at times.
It was a beautiful spring day and I was down in the West Wing getting set-up for a Wednesday night worship. We were going to begin a 3 week series on “The Prodigal Son.” I was diligent in doing my prep work. I had read the scripture text multiple times. I read what the commentaries had to say about each of the characters and the possible meanings, customs, etc. I had the DVD cued up to the proper place. I had even consulted Webster’s Dictionary on the meaning of the word “Prodigal” (which by the way, means extravagant…)
And then, my cell phone rang.
It was my sister-in-law wondering if I had heard from one of my adult kids. The tone of her voice warned me it wasn’t good news for me and my husband. The story unfolded. Our son had been arrested and was in jail. My first thought was, “Come on, God! Now? You’ve got to be kidding me. He’s arrested right now as I’m getter ready to teach on the Prodigal son??!!”
Suddenly, the parable was no longer about someone else’s family. The parable was becoming all too real, all too close for comfort.
Due to circumstance beyond our control, we were not allowed to have contact with our son until the day of his court date and he was brought in front of the judge to hear the charges against him. It takes time for court systems to process paperwork and there are specific rights under the law as to how long a person may be detained. But the weekend was coming…we hadn’t heard and we were nervous. Finally, a hearing date was set for Friday morning. After the hearing and after being interviewed by the probation officer, our adult son was relinquished into our custody.
Never before had I witnessed such a visible change in a person’s demeanor and body language as when my husband and I walked the long, marbled courthouse corridor to the place where our son was waiting on the hard bench. Total abject shame. And all I could think of was, “This is our boy. This is our son. This is the one we have worried about and prayed for – and loved…That hasn’t changed nor will it change.”
I walked over to him where he was sitting and quietly said his name. He wouldn’t look up. So I told him to “Stand up!” He did. And all I could do was to put my arms around him, crying, and tell him, “Don’t you know how much we love you? We love you and we’ll get through this together.” In that instant, the Parable of the Prodigal became totally real in every sense. Rather than teaching it, I was being taught.
God is actually “The Prodigal” throughout this parable Jesus told. Our heavenly Father is the One who is the source of prodigal/extravagant love. The source of extravagant forgiveness. The One who waits and watches…and welcomes, with outstretched arms telling all of his children, the reckless and the resentful alike, God calls each of us by name and asks us to look up as well. “Don’t you know how much you are loved? Come in. Let me take you home. Let’s get you put back together. You need a bath – and in my baptismal waters, all shame and disgrace are washed away. I will clothe you with the clean clothes of new life and fresh beginning. I bet you are hungry, too. Here is my table and the meal is ready. This is what love and forgiveness look like. This is what it tastes like: and I want you sitting with me and with the entire household. You are marked with the cross of Christ forever. You belong to me. Trust me. We will work this out – together.”
Life experiences change the context in which we hear scripture and see ourselves in the parables. The Parable of the Prodigal is your story. It is my story. It is God’s story. People in trouble who make the news are now seen as somebody’s kid. And God knows that somebody’s kid’s name and waits for them with open arms, too.
I’m not here to judge the parenting they’ve received or the choices that have been made. Consequences still happen and restitution must be followed through. But God’s invitation is for all people. God’s grace goes above and beyond what we understand or can even imagine! We need only look up and accept his invitation, his pleading to come. St. Paul writes, “So, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”
God’s prodigal love and forgiveness is for you! We must celebrate together when the lost are found and the dead are brought back to life! Thanks be to God! Amen.
– Brenda Tibbetts, Associate in Ministry
We are so excited to host the Apollo Duo Concert Sunday, September 14th at 2:00 pm. The Apollo Duo is a flute and percussion duo based in Chicago and Minneapolis.
The duo formed in 2011 when flutist, Stefanie Abderhalden, and percussionist, Jeremy Johnston, were graduate students at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois. The duo began with a performance of music for fife and drum and since then, has performed a variety of music for flute and percussion at various venues throughout the Midwest. The Apollo Duo strives to perform many styles of music for flute and percussion. The duo promotes playing new music and works to commission new, innovative pieces written for their combination.
The concert is open to all, no tickets necessary. There will be a free will offering, proceeds benefiting the musicians. The Duo will also be providing special music at Our Savior’s Sunday morning worship at 9:30 am. All are welcome.
Photo credit: http://www.facebook.com/apolloduomusic
Virginia and surrounding communities look forward the Our Savior’s sales. They’re usually held twice a year, if donations allow. Proceeds from both sales are returned to the community for projects and programs that help local people in need. This year the Clothing Sale is
Every kind of household item you can imagine (and a few you can’t!) — priced to sell. Donations accepted, call the office for details.
Our Savior’s is accepting applications for an office manager. The position is for 30 hours/week. Application and job description is available to pick up at the church office. Office hours are Tuesday – Friday 8:30 – 4:00. Deadline to apply is June 8th.
Our Savior’s has an opening for a full-time Director of Youth and Family Ministry position. To apply please send a letter of interest and a resume by May 23rd to the church (OSLC 1111 8th St S. Virginia, MN 55792)
JOB / PROGRAM DESCRIPTION
Director of Youth and Family Ministry
Our Savior’s Lutheran Church
1111 8th St S.Virginia, MN 55792
2014 Ministry Description/Responsibilities
Acting in love + Building relationships + Following Jesus
The purpose of Youth and Family Ministry at Our Savior’s is to nurture, support and foster youth and their families in faith formation. To lead a dynamic and comprehensive, Christ centered ministry that encourages faith filled intergenerational relationships, programs and activities, as well as pastoral care for youth and their families. Provide primary leadership in developing and implementing a congregation based ministry with youth and families.
The Director of Youth and Family Ministry is supervised by the Senior Pastor; works directly with the Youth and Family Board as well as other staff (AiM, secretary, janitors, music director, etc…) as needed in coordinating activities, events and other special needs.
The DYFM will report to the council monthly with a written report and attendance at the meeting. Will attend weekly staff meetings and the monthly Youth and Family Board meeting.
Salary and Benefits
This is a full-time position (40 hours per week) with salary and benefits as outlined in Attachment A.
In order to fulfill the purposes of Youth and Family Ministry at Our Savior’s, the following tasks are recommended:
The DYFM supports the Sunday School Program and Leadership by assisting in many areas, including but not limited to:
Confirmation – Faith Matters
The DYFM supports the Confirmation Program and Leadership by assisting in many areas, including but not limited to:
Faith Finders – Wednesday Afterschool Program
The DYFM supports the Faith Finders Program and Leaders by assisting in many areas, including but not limited to:
The DYFM nurtures the youth group by organizing many events including, but not limited to Weekly Meetings, Bible Studies, Summer Trips, Camps, Retreats, Lock-Ins, and Fundraisers.
Youth and Family Ministry Team
The DYFM stays connected to the needs of the congregation by working in collaboration with the Youth and Family Ministry Team. This Team learns about Youth and Family Ministry, listens to the needs of the congregation, envision future possibilities for this ministry, and supports with work of the Director of Youth and Family Ministry by encouraging broad support and participation in these programs and events by the youth, parents and other adults.
Mentor Youth and Families and Pastoral Care
Serves as Youth Mentor and confidante:
The DYFM develops and coordinated special events which create opportunities to nurture faith relationships among youth, family, congregation, and community.
The DYFM supports the youth and families in fundraising so that special events are affordable to attend. The following are fundraisers that have been established at Our Savior’s:
Support for these ministries may include coaching, training, and connecting these ministries to each other as well as to additional resources.
Publicity and Contact Hours
Office Hours –This includes time spent creating publicity regarding special events and ministries. Attending staff, committee & council meetings as well as any other administration duties as defined in job description or by senior pastor.
Contact Hours – are a way to create, sustain, and deepen relationships with youth and families.
Resources and References
The DYFM provides information to the community about important issues impacting youth and families. These resources should be provided in response to the needs and participation of the community.
The DYFM will use appropriate adult leaders (chaperones) at all youth events. Suggestions may include one adult for every seven youth, at least one male and one female adult, and adults that are at least 21 years old.
Our Savior’s will be accepting applications for a Bookkeeper. This is a part-time position. We are looking for someone with experience. References are required. You can pick up an application and a job description at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church 1111 8th St So. Virginia, MN 55792. The deadline to apply is May 15th. For more information you can call the church office at 218-741-6207 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The council has called for a special congregational meeting to take place on Sunday, April 27th starting at 10:30 a.m. The agenda item for this meeting will be a motion made by the Youth and Family board regarding adding at full-time Director of Youth and Family Ministry position. Below you will find further information regarding the position and the upcoming meeting. Please plan to attend.
Happy Spring! This letter comes to you with exciting information about the proposed addition to Our Savior’s staff of a Full-time Director of Youth and Family Ministry. Two presentations have been given on this vision and proposal. This letter breaks down the financial piece as we will be looking to the congregation to help support the second half of the salary for the first year and a half of the new position.
If at anytime you have questions about this position, you are encouraged to contact the church office to talk to either Pastor Bob, AiM Brenda or Pastor Liz. Or feel free to contact anyone of the members of the Youth and Family Board (Steve Carlson, Kristi Ongalo, Jackie & Nathan LeBeque, Bob Bjorum). You are welcome to pick up packets available in the church office that contain the information and proposal for this position.
The church council has called for a special congregational meeting on Sunday, April 27th from 10:30 – 11:00 a.m. in the Fellowship Hall to vote on the following motion that will be brought forth by the Youth and Family Ministry Team.
The motion states:
The Youth & Family Ministry Team moves that a full-time Director of Youth and Family Ministry be added to the staff. The funds for the position will be received through donors for the first 18 months with the 2016 budget properly reflecting and sustaining the full-time salary, benefits and taxes of this position.
Please plan to attend the meeting on Sunday, April 27th, 2014 at 10:30 in the fellowship hall. Absentee ballots are not allowed per our constitution.
If you find it in your budget and part of your personal stewardship and ministry to financially support this position, please fill out and return the Intent to Pledge slip found in this mailing. A return envelope has been included for you convenience. There are many options and levels of giving for you to choose from. A reminder that this pledge would be above and beyond your regular giving. Please see the breakdown of pledges and number of donors needed to make this happen. Note that the current budget covers about half of the full-time salary – $15,604.50
Thank you for your faithfulness and your continued stewardship, which comes through in many ways. Please prayerfully consider how you might be able to be a part of this wonderful and important ministry opportunity!
In Christ, Our Savior’s Youth and Family Ministry Team